Josh Harding has found himself in the minors and will be awaiting a comeback, while Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has important decisions to make about what the future will look like in Winnipeg.
Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding cleared waivers on November 18 and was demoted to the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa. The Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff explains the Wild prefer placing Harding on waivers, rather than simply sending him to Iowa on a two-week conditioning stint. This way, the Wild can keep Harding in the minors for as long as they wish.
Harding has one season remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $1.9 million, paying him $2.1 million in actual salary. He’s returning from a broken foot suffered in training camp. The 30-year-old netminder is also battling multiple sclerosis, earning the Masterton Trophy for perseverance in 2013.
Prior to being sidelined by his disease midway through last season, Harding led the league in goals-against average and save percentage. It’s those numbers which prompted Sportsnet’s Luke Fox to speculate over which teams in need of goaltending depth (like Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton and New Jersey) might take a chance on him.
The combination of Harding’s health issues and salary likely contributed to his passing unclaimed through waivers. It also suggests clubs either aren’t as desperate for help between the pipes as some pundits believe or there’s simply a lack of depth in available goaltenders at the present time.
Free agent options include aging veterans Martin Brodeur, Tomas Vokoun and Tim Thomas, along with the inconsistent Ilya Bryzgalov. Teams carrying goaltending depth (Carolina, Ottawa, St. Louis and Toronto) appear content to keep their tandems intact.
CHEVELDAYOFF HAS WINNIPEG WORRIES
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch believes Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has “some tough decisions to make” regarding defenseman/forward Dustin Byfuglien and left wing Andrew Ladd. Garrioch notes Byfuglien and Ladd will become unrestricted free agents in 2016 and claims there’s talk Cheveldayoff is making some calls.
In addition to those two, there’s the seemingly endless speculation over left wing Evander Kane‘s long-term future in Winnipeg. Kane is signed through 2017-18 at an average cap hit of $5.25 million. Byfuglien’s cap hit is $5.2 million while Ladd’s is $4.4 million, and both have modified no-trade clauses.
The Jets, however, are currently jockeying for playoff contention with Los Angeles, Chicago, San Jose and Minnesota in the very competitive Western Conference. It’s highly unlikely Cheveldayoff trades any of his top players now.
If the Jets GM is making calls it’s likely for offensive depth. The Jets are currently among the NHL’s lowest-scoring teams, so shipping out guys like Kane, Ladd or Byfuglien makes no sense. Should the Jets fall out of playoff contention leading up to the March 2 trade deadline, Cheveldayoff could decide it’s time to overhaul his roster. Until then, he’ll stick with what he has.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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